City Harvest case: Ex-fund manager 'lied to court over sham bonds'

City Harvest case: Ex-fund manager 'lied to court over sham bonds'

City Harvest Church's former fund manager helped it to invest in alleged sham bonds despite knowing full well that they could not be paid off in time, a court heard yesterday.

The prosecution charged that Chew Eng Han also tried to cover this up and lied to the court.

The 54-year-old is one of six people accused of misusing $50 million in church funds to boost the music career of Ms Ho Yeow Sun, the wife of founding pastor Kong Hee, 50, and covering up the misuse.

His alleged involvement included channelling money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Ms Ho's then management company Xtron, and glass manufacturer Firna.

Before accusing Chew of lying, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong yesterday referred to an e-mail sent to him in July 2007, regarding a projection of how Ms Ho's planned album would sell in the United States, and how money from its sales would help to repay the initial Xtron bonds.

Fellow accused Serina Wee, 38, wrote in the e-mail that Xtron would take 10 years to pay off the $13 million in bonds. This projection was based on the album selling only 200,000 copies.

Chew claimed in court yesterday that he always thought the amount could be paid within two years, based on what Kong had told him. He said he had probably thought Wee was being "ultra conservative".

He insisted that he would have asked Kong to rethink the bond plan and fund Xtron directly through a missions fund if there was a 30 per cent to 40 per cent chance of Wee's projection occurring.

Earlier, he said it would have been "suicidal" to proceed with the bonds based on Wee's projection.

DPP Ong said: "I put it to you that when Serina gave you this projection of 200,000 albums (sold), you accepted it and took it seriously because you knew that Serina, (fellow defendant) Tan Ye Peng and Kong Hee were the ones who were able to provide accurate information about the budget."

He added: "I put it to you that you are lying when you say you didn't take Serina seriously because you are trying to cover up the fact that you entered into the bonds knowing that they would not be repayable upon maturity."

Chew disagreed both times. He has maintained that it was more important to consider whether the bonds would yield profits.

Earlier yesterday, he admitted he had come up with the idea of using bonds to put money into Xtron. "In terms of packaging it as a bond, yes, it was my idea, your honour."

He agreed with the prosecution that if Kong had not given the go-ahead for the bond plan, nothing would have been done.

Chew also agreed that other options of getting funds from outside the church had been exhausted, and that the bond plan was the only way to get the funds needed to continue financing Ms Ho's career.

But asked whether it would essentially have spelt the end of the Crossover Project if the bond plan had not gone ahead, Chew said: "I don't know, maybe they would have gone to borrow money from some rich individuals."

This article was first published on Feb 6, 2015.
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